Tennessee Tragedy

Tennessee receives a kiss from her brother Jock.

The painted wolf seen being killed by a crocodile in the BBC “Dynasties” film was called Tennessee. She was a two-year-old daughter of Blacktip’s. This incident upset me greatly and still does. This is what I wrote in my diary afterwards and reproduced in my book “Painted Wolves: A Wild Dog’s Life”, which I wrote with Peter Blinston. I don’t want to show the graphic pictures in the book, because it is still too upsetting to see and far more disturbing than my baboon shots. Instead, this describes my gut feelings at the time for a wolf cut short in her prime and my pictures show her in happier moments of her life.

Tennessee as a yearling, April 2015.


I am devastated, teary-eyed and I am angry. I have known Tennessee since she was born and her senseless loss affects me deeply.

I am angry at the mindless crocodile and the mindless lions that diverted the pack from their course.

I am angry at the mindless safari-goers who think they’ve simply seen a cool scene and are now impatient for their evening gin and tonic.

I am angry at the mindless photographers who congratulate themselves on capturing a great action shot and flash the backs of their cameras with egocentric glee.

Above all, I am angry with myself for being mindlessly angry and so affected by such a natural phenomenon in the bush.

The truth is I have become so very attached to these little creatures, and this event brings home the extent of that.

I cannot blame the crocodile or the lion, any more than I can blame the wolf for killing an impala or baboon. It is what they are designed to do.

These animals are not blessed with reason and their actions are far more innocent than any of us eating a steak sandwich.

I cannot blame the safari-goer or photographer. For many of them, the bush is simply an entertainment and, unless it entertains, they will not come. And without their income, the bush and the animals within will perish.

But I can allow myself to feel sad about Tennessee’s death. She was never a remarkable wolf, but regardless, she was an important part of the pack.

At only two years old, her life was cut short and who knows what potential lay ahead.

She was an animal I had been following all her life and, while her end was tragic, through my photographs I can still reflect on and celebrate her happier times.



Reprinted with permission. If you would like to order this excellent book which helps raise awareness of the plight of the Painted Wolf please click here. All proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Painted Wold Foundation.

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